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University of Florida Eliminates Computer Science Department 628

DustyShadow writes "The University of Florida announced this past week that it was dropping its computer science department, which will allow it to save about $1.7 million. The school is eliminating all funding for teaching assistants in computer science, cutting the graduate and research programs entirely, and moving the tattered remnants into other departments. Students at UF have already organized protests, and have created a website dedicated to saving the CS department. Several distinguished computer scientists have written to the president of UF to express their concerns, in very blunt terms. Prof. Zvi Galil, Dean of Computing at Georgia Tech, is 'amazed, shocked, and angered.' Prof. S.N. Maheshwari, former Dean of Engineering at IIT Delhi, calls this move 'outrageously wrong.' Computer scientist Carl de Boor, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and winner of the 2003 National Medal of Science, asked the UF president 'What were you thinking?'"
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University of Florida Eliminates Computer Science Department

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  • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:17AM (#39769395)

    Can we study the same things in other departments without having a dedicated Computer Science niche to go with Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, etc.?

  • by G3ckoG33k ( 647276 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:19AM (#39769409)

    "What were you thinking?"

    Well, probably something along the lines of "That department did not publish well enough and the students did not bring in enough money".

  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:20AM (#39769419) Homepage
    My thoughts exactly. Most schools I've been to don't have a computer science department, but rather lump it in with the math or engineering department. Computer science is a programme of study not an entire department.
  • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:21AM (#39769423)

    At the school I went to, computer science degrees were part of the school of liberal arts and sciences (in the same building as astronomy, physics and math) and IT degrees were part of the school of business. It worked fairly well as there wasn't much overlap between the two and the CS students (a very small program compared to IT) benefited from being close to the math and physics departments.

  • by _8553454222834292266 ( 2576047 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:22AM (#39769433)

    Computer science is a programme of study not an entire department.

    Only if you're at a bad school.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:23AM (#39769441)

    Uh, no... Physics is to Mechanical Engineering as Chemistry is to Chemical Engineering as Computer Science is to Computer Engineering.

    Science is very, very different from engineering. Science is focused on the theoretical, while engineering is focused on applying that theory to the real world, subject to various resource constraints.

    Given that they are so different, it makes absolutely no sense to try to group them together, especially in some attempt to "save money".

  • by jimbolauski ( 882977 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:39AM (#39769585) Journal
    Their athletics program makes money, not from ticket sales but from donations and ticket sales. When a school wins a national championship or two they get many more alumni opening their wallets. Schools have a very good idea of how much money their sports programs bring in and they spend accordingly. The best way to save UF CS department is to get donations from CS alumni or to make donations directly to the CS department.
  • by aglider ( 2435074 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:39AM (#39769587) Homepage

    by dropping all the departments!

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:40AM (#39769599)

    Can we study the same things in other departments without having a dedicated Computer Science niche to go with Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, etc.?

    Not in sufficient depth, at least in my opinion. Complexity theory? Database theory (yes, theory, not just "here's how to write a simple SQL statement)? Compilers? These could all be in other departments, but an undergrad pursuing a degree in another field will not have enough time to study computer science in any respectable depth. Double major is not the answer if CS is spread over more than two other departments. Spreading CS across math and engineering departments deprives students of the chance to become computer scientists.

  • by MooseDontBounce ( 989375 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:41AM (#39769605)
    they probably need the money to help the team. Everyone knows SEC football titles is WAY more important then actual classes.
  • by mjr167 ( 2477430 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:41AM (#39769619)
    You are mistaken... football is a profit center,not a cost center for universities. You can sell tickets to football games; you can't sell tickets to CS.
  • by Amouth ( 879122 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:47AM (#39769681)

    and this is where i have to ask what is the core competency of a university? to make money? to entertain fans? to educate students?

    Just be cause you can make money at something doesn't mean you should focus resources on it, unless it's one of your core competency.

    If it really is a "profit center" and something they can make money from, great but they need to contract control of it out on set terms and use the money generated by it to increase the educational offerings and make it easier for them to achieve in their reason for being, educating students.

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:48AM (#39769687)
    That depends on the quality of your CS department. Football is not a profit center because of ticket sales, it is a profit center because rich alumni come back to remember the good ol' days of getting drunk and cheering for their fellow students receiving concussions, and then give large donations. If computer science departments inspire that sort of money-giving, they could become profitable also (and they might; if a rich alumnus owes his wealth to the education he received, he is likely to make a donation).

    There is also the matter of research. Universities get a nice chunk of the money that researchers pull in from grants, and even more if those researchers hire graduate students (whose tuition is typically covered by the grant). A computer science department that has decent enoguh research could bring in lots of money for a university, as well as free advertising.

    You know what does not help a university? Stories like this one -- stories about how they castrate their CS department to save a few pennies. I am curious about the rest University of Florida's budget -- how much do they spend on administrative salaries, resodding grass, and so forth. Chance are they could have saved the money elsewhere, if keeping the computer science department had been a priority.
  • by geoffball ( 1195685 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:49AM (#39769695)
    The UF athletic depart makes most of its cash from the television contracts of the football and basketball teams.
  • by trum4n ( 982031 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:55AM (#39769755)
    There should be no jobs for anyone writing DRM. Only pain.
  • by scharkalvin ( 72228 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:57AM (#39769769) Homepage

    Too bad their sponsor is one of the worst things that has ever happened to this country. The family involved is worse than the KKK in it's anti american John Birch attitudes. They don't believe in global warming and the environment. FS should tell them to take their money and stuff it where the sun don't shine.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @09:05AM (#39769839)

    Computer Engineering/Software Engineering isn't the same as Computer Science.

    In Computer Science we usually take a course in Computer Engineering and a course in Software Engineering, to get some concepts from those other areas of study into the students. However Computer Science, real Computer Science, is less about the technology, and more about the Mathematics of performing optimal computations.
    Software Engineering isn't as much about optimal computations, it is more of a way of getting the software to work, and building larger complicated systems, which need to be maintained over time.
    Computer Engineering is more of a hardware level approach, where the goal is is optimize basic elements but not complex systems.
    Computer Science is in the middle. We use the optimized basic elements that the Computer Engineers make, and we create more complicated computations using them. Then Software Engineers take what the computer scientists have made and implement them into a practical design.

    When it gets to real life jobs, all three areas of studies often give us a similar career path. However depending on your study you have different approaches to the problems we face.
    So lets say a for a Job of a Software Developer (with 5 years experience)
    When there is a problem to be solved.
    A computer Engineer focused person, would use the features in the hardware to leverage more Optimized Lower level commands to their beck and call to help them solve issues, now this will create a fast solution, but may not run on other platforms.
    A Computer Science focused person, would try to separate themselves from the hardware a bit more, and go into creating logic and routines, these routines will tend to be rather optimal, however they will probably miss something the hardware gives us for free, but will run on other platforms.
    A Computer Engineer, will create code in a clean well documented manner, it will often be the less optimal, and slowest solution. However it will tend to run well on other platforms, easy to maintain, and usually more stable.

    They all approach problems differently and when you get them together to work on a problem, you can get some heated discussions, but if they actually work well together they come up with some very good solutions.
    Dropping Computer Science is a bad idea, because then you will loose the middle of the road approach in computing.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @09:07AM (#39769877)

    I work for an engineering college at a big university and we have some departments that really need cutting. I'm talking departments that, literally, have less than 10 students. Well when you have low enrollment numbers like that you don't really bring in the money to support a department head, a few professors, support staff, and so on. They are a drain on resources and need to be cut.

    One way or another, a department needs to bring in enough money to support itself. Now that could be directly bringing in money through research grants, but can also be through tuition. Departments that do a lot of teaching but little to no research can be plenty valuable because if students are coming for those classes, they are bringing in tuition dollars.

    If they can't bring in money to support themselves, meaning pay the salaries, capital and operations costs, all that kind of thing, then they need to be cut in size or eliminated entirely. It is neither fair nor smart to say "Let's grab money from a successful department and use it to prop up an unsuccessful one."

  • Re:not eliminated? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dachshund ( 300733 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @09:16AM (#39769983)

    50% of faculty would be transferred to other engineering departments (ECE, ISE, and BME)

    Just to clarify: The other 50% of faculty will move to better Universities. All of the good ones anyway.

    My University is already treating this as a huge hiring opportunity.

  • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @09:20AM (#39770015)

    So if someone wants to go down the path towards a CCIE and work on internet backbones, in your mind CS would cover that? Because to my mind that falls under IT, and most CS majors arent going to know how to work on a real internet router.

    Or lets say we want to implement WPA2-enterprise with RADIUS, is that something you suppose your typical CS major is going to have expertise in?

  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @09:34AM (#39770139) Journal

    I find both of your examples to fall into the realm of technical certificates, not University level study.

    I've always thought of CS vs IT as Engineer vs Technician. One designs the other implements and operates.

    For example a CS student should understand compiler theory including things like language tokenization, code generation, parse trees and the like.

    An IT student needs to know "./config && make && make install" and have a working knowledge of an IDE like Visual Studio or Eclipse along with be fairly proficient in a language or two.

  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @09:37AM (#39770163) Journal

    That isn't a degree, it's a certificate.

  • by SecurityGuy ( 217807 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @10:00AM (#39770423)

    The best way to save UF CS department is to get donations from CS alumni or to make donations directly to the CS department.

    You may be right, but this is a desperately sad state of affairs. Tuition of the students attending should be sufficient to pay for the CS department. If it's not, they shouldn't have a CS department. I know many are desperate for uniformity, but it's really OK if not every single institution offers exactly the same programs of study. Schools also do a ridiculous bunch of things that I, as a former tuition paying student, don't want them spending my money on. Stop that.

  • by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @10:16AM (#39770575) Journal

    Tuition is supposed to pay for the cost of schooling. Please explain why my taxes should pay for your schooling.

    And, a better explanation is that the administration staff is overpaid. The president of UF makes $750,000 a year. That is more than the president of the country.

  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @10:49AM (#39770911) Journal

    What you expected a message body?

  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @10:50AM (#39770927) Journal
    Who the fuck cares if it makes money - it's a STATE UNIVERSITY not a CORPORATION. It doesn't have to "make money". It has to Educate People. Eliminating the CS dept while boosting Football is embarrassingly retarded. You want to know why America is Collapsing? Bullshit like killing the CS dept while boosting Football is why the USA is Collapsing. It's being crushed by a massive case of the stupids and a malingering condition of ignorance complicated by fantastically poor judgement.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:35AM (#39771569)

    What money is UF Athletics getting from the State? Please tell... What money is it even getting from the Academic side of the University??

    This is a BS argument. The athletic dept ultimately gets their cash from the basis of their fan base, and where exactly do you think they get their fans from? By and large it is their university affiliation. To think that the athletic dept gets nothing from the university besides cash is a completely myopic viewpoint. If the UF football team was instead the "Gainesville football team", how many fans would they have?

    Athletic depts in general should be kicking back a lot more than they do to their university hosts, because frankly without them nobody would care who they were.

  • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:11PM (#39772143) Journal
    The point is to EDUCATE, NOT MAXIMIZE REVENUE. The PROFIT is a well educated citizenry.
  • by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:51PM (#39772811)

    most CS majors arent going to know how to work on a real internet router.
    University education isn't supposed to be vocational training. In academia you learn academic concepts, not on the job skills.

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @01:34PM (#39773321)
    But if you eliminate whole departments, you lose interdisciplinary links. You eliminate any quality in classes that other majors need. If UF offered computational neurobiology for example, it probably won't for very long now. Can't really see how the students are going to learn the upper-level computing skills they'd need. They'll try to compensate by having some biology professor who kinda knows computers try to teach the class, but the result will be less well-rounded students.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:48PM (#39775693)

    As a pirate who has probably downloaded your closed-source, for-profit software with the DRM already stripped out, I am amused that you think DRM actually protects your IP.

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury